Do you find yourself needing yet another self-portrait for profiles on LinkedIn, AngelList, Twitter, etc.? We've got your back (so to speak). At [next], attendees will have the opportunity to have an individual photo taken by our on-site photographer. Speaking of [next], have you scanned the agenda lately? Now is the time to send extra delegates or clear schedules for your colleagues who wish to follow along on our live stream back in the office.
Or instead of a personal portrait, how about just using an emoji–perhaps the "face with tears of joy" (by the way, that link is from Emojipedia.org, satisfying all your emoji needs), which the Oxford Dictionary has declared to be the Word of the Year for 2015. (Yep, when you weren't looking, emojis gained full status as words.) Other contenders were sharing economy (Robin Chase, Atlanta, Feb 2014; Memphis, Sep 2006), they (Vivienne, Ming, Jersey City, Oct 2013), on fleek (Anouk Wipprecht, Atlanta, Feb 2014), ad blocker (Will Scully-Power, San Francisco, Dec 2014), refugee (Andrew Rasiej, Washington, D.C., May 2012), Brexit, Dark Web (Christopher White, Philadelphia, Jul 2015), and lumbersexual (sorry, but we don't have a past reference for this one!).
A focus of our recent Collaboration & the Workplace of the Future meeting was optimizing the physical structure of workplaces (Sara Armbruster and Donna Flynn, Washington, D.C, Sep 2015). How about also optimizing the cleanliness of the air we breathe at work? An article in IEEE Spectrum (by Evan Ackerman, who spoke at our robotics meeting (Boston, Apr 2014)), describes a tensegrity-based service robot that travels through air ducts and cleans them. The robot is based on work by NASA Ames engineer Vytas SunSpiral (Atlanta, Feb 2014).
The other conduits in our lives that are hard to clean are sewers. The IoT is going above (in the air) and below (into the sewers themselves) to make cities not only smarter but also more healthful. (Deborah Estrin and Dean Kamen, Jersey City, Oct 2009; Larry Smarr, San Jose, Feb 2012)
Clean water is truly our most precious resource of all. And two-thirds of Earth is covered with undrinkable water, unless a new technology developed by TTI/Vanguard member Lockheed Martin can prove to be the key to cost-effective desalination.
Part of the problem is shrinking supplies of groundwater, which a new study declared to be effectively a non-renewable resource.
As if access to groundwater weren't a sufficiently thorny matter, what about ownership of minerals mined in space? The Space Act of 2015 will likely soon grant rights to companies that extract ores from orbs, but is it within the purview of the United States to grant such rights? (Larry Downes, San Francisco, Dec 2010; Zha Daojiong, Beijing, Jul 2006; Ellen Prager, Miami, Dec 2011)
Another TTI/Vanguard member in the news is Coca Cola, as one of a number of global corporations racing to scale down their data centers in favor of the cloud. (Adam Selipsky, San Francisco, Dec 2010; George Crump, San Diego, Feb 2009; Charlie Bell, Santa Monica, Dec 2007)
Erik Mueller, who worked on the Watson Jeopardy! system (David Barnes, Pittsburgh, Oct 2012), Watson for Healthcare, and WatsonPaths (Eric Brown, Washington, D.C., Sep 2015) as a research staff member at IBM, has a love-hate attitude toward TensorFlow, the AI engine that Google open-sourced this month. His thesis, expressed in a provocative editorial in Wired: "As wonderful as TensorFlow is, I fear that it may accelerate the design of AI systems that are hard to understand and hard to communicate with." Erik will speak at our February 2016 meeting, Big Understanding.
"Robot in aisle 4." Tally, a new service robot, is assisting grocery stores keep their inventory updated and appropriately shelved. Tally's creator, Simbe Robotics, was founded by Willow Garage alumni, as of course was Savioke, founded by Willow Garage founder Steve Cousins (Boston, Apr 2014). Steve will be back to demo his next-gen service robot in December at [next].
Is the current corporate culture of short-term obsession on quarterly ROI kneecapping your innovation efforts? The good news is that you are not alone. The bad news is that this disturbing trend shows no signs of slowing down. Should companies spend more on stock buybacks and dividends than on R&D? (Stewart Brand, San Diego, Feb 2000; Marvin Minsky, Gary Marcus, and Doug Lenat, Boston, Apr 2014)
The headline says it all: "Beware of ads that use inaudible sound to link your phone, TV, tablet, and PC–Privacy advocates warn feds about surreptitious cross-device tracking." What it doesn't say is that we were alerted to this a year ago by Will Scully-Power (San Francisco, Dec 2014).
Arguably the best of many talks about the importance of design was by Don Norman (San Jose, Feb 2003), at one time the number-three person at Apple. How the mighty have fallen, at least in Don's eyes. He and fellow design guru Bruce Tognazzini recently wrote about "How Apple Is Giving Design A Bad Name," arguing that "For years, Apple followed user-centered design principles. Then something went wrong."
Meanwhile, IBM is hiring designers like mad, according to the New York Times, although Advisory Board member David Reed wondered in an email to us whether the recent trend toward what is sometimes called "design thinking" will prove to be a fad.
China's Tianhe-2 retained its top spot in the supercomputing world's Top500 list. How important is supercomputing? Three years ago, Satoshi Matsuoka (Tokyo, Jul 2012), told us that "A lot of the technologies developed for exascale will trickle down into the IT sector." This past February Amanda ("My goal in life is to win the Gordon Bell Prize") Randles described how she is using massively parallel simulation to study disease. And in February, Rick Stevens of Argonne National Lab will talk about how supercomputing is essential for understanding the foundations of systems biology.
Is programming the purest form of poetry, as Alan Perlis used to assert? Andy Raskin?s answer, yes and no, is worth reading in its brief entirety.
Happy American Thanksgiving to those celebrating here in the United States. If you are among those missing out on turkey and cranberry sauce next week, here is one more thing you'll have to live without: us. The TTI/V weekly newsletter will be on vacation next week, celebrating with our loved ones, but back in action on December 4th. And then we're off to San Francisco!
"In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in poetry, it's the exact opposite."
— Paul Dirac
The TTI/Vanguard Team